High Beams are NOT Spare Bulbs

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A disturbing trend I’ve noticed recently is the increased use of high beams (and glaring lights in general) in traffic. I am not certain of the cause but perhaps there are numerous factors in play.

Looking cool. Sadly badly performing, misused, distracting, and/or blinding to other drivers vehicle lighting seems to be a fashion statement in the USA.

Oblivious. Many drivers are simply clueless as to how to operate their vehicle. Those glaring red rear fog lamps on while driving on a clear night? Could be someone looking cool or could just be someone who has no clue how to operate their vehicle. High beams much the same. They don’t even know they are blinding/glaring to other drivers.

Stupid. “Gee, they are brighter, they must be better”. These people don’t understand that shoving snake oil over wattage bulbs in their head lamps or running high beams isn’t just allowing them to see better, but they see better at everyone else’s expense if they actually see better at all.

Self Centered. Like “Stupid” above, but they know it’s at the expense of others and don’t care.

Cheap. Some times at my encouragement a driver running high beams will turn them off. This is where I notice one or both of their low beam headlamps are not functioning. While any self respecting car guy would stop at the next auto parts store, *mart, or anywhere else that caries head lamp bulbs and fix the situation, cheap people just use what to them are or become built in spare bulbs.

Before you can say, ‘why don’t cops ticket them’, most of it may be legal and some of it stock. And like all tickets, the question is not legality but if a cop may want to hassle a particular driver or brings in the revenue for his bosses from it.

Yes, some of it can be stock. USDOT regs allow for a lot of glaring headlamps, intentionally under the theory that significant light has to go up on to overhead signs. Various other lighting is also allowed that shouldn’t be, but that’s another rant.  However a cop tickets based on state law, which having generally been written in the 1930s it seems allows for even a wider range of poor performing lighting and hence all the aftermarket crap on the market.So what’s the cop to do when it turns out to be legal time after time? He just stops pulling people over for lighting issues, even when it is illegal.

Then again, with speed and an arbitrary BAC being his bosses’ (not us voters) priorities why should he bother with lighting at all? Only if it’s a teenager or some other person he wishes to harass or if he has performance objectives to meet might he even bother. These tickets don’t bring in the revenue so it’s a ‘beyond the stop’ sort of thing. This way susie soccer mom can drive obliviously with her vehicle’s high beams on without any significant worry of being pulled over.  Anyone driving a non-toastermobile can probably expect a roadside conversation with an armed man if  driving when cops are bored. In the end boobus won’t be bothered much so the state of affairs is unlikely to improve.

As the society decays further and becomes poorer, I expect driving with high beams on and burning out the retinas of fellow drivers only to increase. People becoming less concerned with others, more ignorant, and poorer so they will delay purchasing replacement bulbs. Front end body work won’t be repaired after damage, all sorts of kludged repairs could become more common as well.




  1. If I had a choice, I would install train horns (LOUD ONES!) and blast the idiots shining high beams into my eyes as I got right upon them. Of course you would want to be polite and flash your brights at them first to give them the oppourtunity to dim them first.

  2. It’s not the brights coming at me so much as the brights coming up behind me that I can’t stand. The glare off the front and side mirrors can be awful especially on a wet night. I wish there were a way of flashing brights from the taillights to let others know to dim their brights.

    • Yes, I’ve been blinded that way a number of times. People just assume everyone uses the night setting of the center mirror perhaps. I don’t use it. I can’t stand the loss of detail.

      I’ve found some people just don’t care and if you let them know they are doing something wrong they get angry. The rest are just totally oblivious. I’ve let them pass me and then flashed the brights. On very rare occasion did it result in them turning off the brights. Mostly no effect and few flipped out.

  3. I think a lot of it is just youth. 20-somethings’ eyes aren’t as dazzled by high beams, and they’re probably wondering why we old fogeys are complaining! Of course, the coolest are the electric white ones that burn through your retinas.

    • “I’m not old!” -Dennis

      I’ve been glare sensitive since I started driving so it’s not age. Plus when I drove in Germany it was much better. (ECE regulations are much better for limiting glare) At night in the rain still wasn’t so good though.

    • That’s part of it, for sure. But it’s also true that some modern cars have extremely bright (projector beam/HID) lights that put out a lot more light than old-style sealed beam units. I test drive new cars each week, so this is something I am well-acquainted with. It’s great for the driver, in terms of much-improved nighttime visibility, But it can definitely affect other drivers in not-so-great ways, too.

  4. Just got home from training a few minutes ago. It’s a bit after 10pm and I get home late like this at least three times a week. Assholes just roll around with their high beams on more often than not lately. It’s crazy! Pretty much the whole way home I am forced to stare at the white line to my right to stay on the road and in my lane. I swear I just want to get one of those few million candle power flashlights and beam them with it! Or better yet a homemade laser..

    • I think it’s another case of Cloverism. People who can’t seeeeee – so they crank up the high beams instead of going to the eye doctor. Or better yet, taking the bus!

    • re: fog lights

      I usually do not use my fog lights unless there is fog. I have turned my fog lights on unintentionally since the switch is on the column with the turn signal & lights. Eventually I realize what happened and close the fog lights.

      Sometimes people forget they are on while driving. (especially true during the day)

      At night it will make the road near your car more visible. (at least in my observation) Is it needed? Not really, except for fog or other low visibility situations.

    • I guess this is good enough… somehow it made it from draft to published. I probably clicked in the wrong spot one day…. so I hadn’t gotten to front fog lights yet 😉

      Front fog lights I’ve seen used when both high beams and low beams are burned out… or someone is trying to look cool by rewiring their car so the fog lights work by themselves.

      The rear fogs generally are more irritating to me because the front ones are often aimed low. I’m glare sensitive so bad lighting and misuse bothers me. I have very good night vision, the glare sensitivity being the downside of that.

      One car of mine that has fog lights I’ve used them maybe a half dozen times in nearly 15 years and 200K miles.

      For filling in the near void, you can thank USDOT for that void being there. I forget the stupid government “logic” behind it. Just some of the stuff I’ve picked up from knowledgeable people over the years.


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